Monday, February 28, 2011

Thoughts: On Driving

I drive a lot in my work, and much of that driving is at night, often not arriving at my destination until late in the night, or very early in the morning. For some, that might be hard duty, but I find for me, it is not. Driving is almost a form of mediation for me, particularly at night.

There is something about cars, reduced to moving lights, that create a dance, something almost organic in their movement. I find myself acutely aware of their movement, their trajectories and speed, and in my mind, traffic becomes sort of an intimate dance, where the moves are all familiar, yet always changing and new, and the constant shift and change is almost intoxicating, yet at the same time, stimulates my mind.

I pray a great deal while driving at night. When I am called on to pray at home or at church, my prayers tend to be short, simple affairs, as if just by being called on with no chance to think on things, my mind freezes or at least seems to short change prayer with a few lines, that no matter how heartfelt, always seem somehow, difficient in thanking our God. Yet late at night, my prayers soar, almost like a psalm more than a mere prayer, calling out God's blessing on the people I care for most deeply and in detail, laying out the thankfulness of my heart and the struggles of that same heart with emotion few who know me would recognize. Transported to some mysterious place by the dance of lights and the drone of my engine that is not just heard, but felt throughout my body, I somehow feel close to the eternal in a way only the grandeur of nature approaches.

Driving at night, I think much about the people I love, and what I love of them. Last night, I spent over an hour simply recalling a brief time the woman I love and I spent together a couple of weeks ago. The joy in that remembrance was longer than the actual moment itself, and the appreciation of the moment was deep, perhaps even deeper for the remembrance that I realized in the entrancement of thought as I drove. Earlier in the day I got caught up thinking about my children, and the simple joy I have in their presence. This happens often for me, as I travel in what seems like silence.

It is only silence on the surface, but something fluid and alive inside. I don't always have words for these things, and if called on in the moment to share them, I doubt I could find the words, because they are more feelings and emotions than words, and words seem so thin in describing them. It is one of my weaknesses.

This is why I write poetry, I think. I am often trying to capture something later that I cannot grasp in the moment, yet somehow I need to get out. Often a poem comes in the long drive, or at least the subject or a phrase that is central to the poem.

I often wish I was better at saying the things I feel when I am in the quietness of my car, but I often find myself floundering. Still, I am grateful for a work that forces me to travel, and find these depths in myself, and at times, get them out.

I am curious sometimes, and perhaps some of  you who read this can share with me - am I alone in the way driving moves me?


PS: the picture was taken while traveling, maybe a year or so ago. Pretty useless a shot really, except to illustrate a post like this one. But if you like it, you can click on it to see a larger version. 


Tess Kincaid said...

Driving, especially at night, is otherworldly, like entering another dimension. Wonderful thoughts.

The lady in Red said...

Dear Tom,
It is so good to read your post that is a surprise to me, as it is a nice snsitive narrative. Very good moments are those one in which you are driving and thinking, byt the way, you are not alone on the way driving, you are always in our hearts.
Thanks for sharing the post,
Have a blessing day!

Leonora said...

I like this post a lot.
This is why I don't mind running errands all the way to Roanoke or taking road trips. (I'm useless at night driving though). I do my very best creative thinking and praying while I drive. I wonder why this is?

Tom Atkins said...


I have this theory that while we are driving, the very mechanical, logical part of our brain is occupied, and some of the self-imposed barriers to creativity and to the heart are down, which is the "why" you wonder about. Just a theory....

Tom Atkins said...

Rosana - Thank you for your kind words. I realized the other day that despite the title of this blog, which claimed to be poetry, photographs and thoughts, I had been short changing thoughts. So I am trying to get back to the balance.

Tess - Somehow I figured you'd get it. That fits with what I read from your writings.